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Aharon Kellerman

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Aharon Kellerman

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Robin Wilson

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Robin Wilson

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Roger White

We review U.S. immigration history during the period from 1607 through 1874. During these years, few laws restricted immigration, but there were restrictions on who could become a citizen. We argue that America’s colonial ties to Britain and restrictions on naturalization encouraged emigration from Northern and Western European countries and discouraged emigration from other locales. The 1790 U.S. Census supports this assertion. In that year, more than 80 percent of the U.S. population (and 97.8 percent of the free population) were either immigrants from Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, or France or descendants of someone from one of these countries. We contend that the ancestral mix of the Colonial population fostered a cultural transfer from Northern and Western Europe to the American colonies. Further contributing to this transfer is that 88.5 percent of all immigrant arrivals between 1820 and 1874 were also from Northern or Western Europe.

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Roger White

We consider whether key changes in U.S. immigration policy coincided with significant structural breaks in the levels of immigrant inflows. Tests are performed for the overall data and for cohorts of traditional source countries and non-traditional sources; for various geographic regions and sub-regions; and for specific countries. We find a large number of structural breaks that correspond with implementation of important legislative acts (e.g., Chinese Exclusion Act, Immigration Act of 1917, Hart-Celler Act, etc.), and many of the breaks coincide with statistically significant changes in the average levels of immigrant inflows during the periods prior to and following the respective policy change. Thus, the empirical evidence strongly supports the notion that immigration policy significantly affects the levels of immigrant arrivals, and gives credence to the assertion that U.S. immigration policy has shaped the demographic composition of America’s population and, by doing so, has likely shaped the nation’s culture.

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Roger White

We close by summarizing the work that has been presented thus far, and by offering a discussion of potential related opportunities for public policy. We begin by revisiting the relationships and the corresponding questions that form the basis for this project. We then provide an accounting of the work—what we have done, how it has been done, and what we have learned. This summary provides a comprehensive discussion of what our findings suggest can be said about the past, the present and, to a lesser degree, the future. Having these details in place also allows for discussion of the associated policy implications. It is argued that maintaining or increasing/expanding the current level/source country composition of immigrant inflows is preferable to reducing/restricting inflows. A potential divergence between perceived and real costs and benefits associated with immigration and how to narrow such a difference is also discussed.

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Roger White

We introduce the gravity model of international migration as the general framework for our econometric analysis, and we discuss our data sources and the construction of related variables. Having presented the empirical models and data, we examine data that span the period from 1820 through 2015 to identify the determinants of annual immigrant inflows to the U.S. and of annual inflow share values. Our models are estimated both with and without time (i.e., year) and source country fixed effects terms, and alternative functional forms and modified empirical specifications are estimated to test the robustness of our primary results.

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Roger White

We consider whether, in 1968, when the Hart-Celler Act was implemented, American culture was more similar to the cultures of traditional immigrant source countries than to the cultures of non-traditional source countries. We also address whether American culture became less similar to the cultures of traditional source countries and more similar to the cultures of non-traditional source countries following changes in the primary immigrant source countries since 1968. The Hofstede, Project GLOBE, and Inglehart measures of cultural distance are used. We find that in the late-1960s American culture was significantly more similar to the culture of the typical traditional source country and less similar to that of the typical non-traditional source country. We also find evidence that more recent immigrant arrivals from non-traditional source countries led American culture to become less similar to the cultures of traditional source countries and more similar to that of the typical non-traditional source country.

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A legacy of discrimination

Becoming America

Roger White

We introduce our topic and provide an overview of the book. We posit a clear bias in U.S. immigration policy that favored entry from Europe and, notably, from Northern and Western European countries until the enactment of the Hart-Celler Act in 1968 (i.e., the Immigration Act of 1965). Only in recent decades have there been a significant increase in the number of annual immigrant arrivals and a considerable shift in the source countries and regions of immigrant arrivals to the U.S. towards Asia, Latin American and the Caribbean, and, to a lesser extent, Africa. We contend that many recent immigrant arrivals to the U.S. have entered a country that is quite culturally dissimilar from their countries of origin. However, through acculturation there has been a movement of U.S. culture away from that of the more traditional European immigrant source countries and towards the cultures of the more recent arrivals’ home countries.